Alexander Gordon (1915 - 2017)
“…though we used to live in fear, the VI. labour battalion was really lifesaving not only for me, but also for thousands of young people.”
Alexander Gordon was born in 1915 in Spišské Podhradie. His father belonged amongst important wood sellers and together with his family he handled a huge homestead. In the town of Spišské Podhradie Jews and non-Jews used to have a good relationship and lived like a big family. But the situation changed soon. After passing the school leaving examination at grammar school Alexander started to study medicine at Charles University in Prague. However, he couldn't have finished the university education. He was dismissed from school because of his religion and was neither admitted to study at the Slovak university. His father lost his business in the process of Aryanization and both parents were forced to move out, escape and hide. Despite of all their efforts, German soldiers found them and they were transported to the concentration camp. At that time Alexander began the compulsory military service at the VI. labour battalion as a medical officer. Even though they lived in constant fear, it saved them from being deported and sent to death. After finishing the military service, he became involved in the Slovak National Uprising.
Dismissal from Medical Studies
“In 1936 I went to the Charles University in Prague. So I came home just occasionally, only for holidays. But somehow we had already known about it, some German refugees came to us and we were fully aware of what would happen. I personally was in Prague when Germans occupied it. I was a student of the Charles University. But since I was Slovak they dismissed me and I was told to go back to Slovakia. I came to Bratislava and wanted to enrol at university because I had already been the medical student and I had to take exams. And they didn’t want to admit me because of my Jewish religion. So, till the spring or summer 1939 I stayed in Prague, and then I came back home where it was in high fermentation.”
Hard Work in Zohor and Guard’s Threats
“The situation was much worse in Zohor. We had to work very hard there; we had a predetermined norm because military made money on it. Actually, it wasn’t military on the whole, but the headquarters staff that was responsible for the sixth battalion. And the extent of the drain that we dug there had to be five cubic metres according to the soil quality. One of the guards was from Zohor and he was a very unpleasant man. He threatened us with the freight train; he said if we didn´t meet quotas they would transport us. It was that danger. And we worked hard, of course, and we got a kind of, I would call it military food. However, we never knew when they would transport us away. When the headquarters staff would decide or when they would be forced by Germans, or whatever, just to transport us.”
Relaxed Atmosphere in the VI. Labour Battalion
“It was good because, you know, people in our neighbourhood were very kind to us. On the other hand, everybody was afraid that they would transport us. We used to live in that fear for a long time. Nevertheless, we were young, so we didn’t mind it, we got used to hard work. So what, I dug five cubic meters of soil there but as I didn’t do it before, I had to get accustomed. I had calluses, I was strong. So, it was rare that the gaffer threatened us with the words: "Gestapo will show you!" Well, I say sometimes it seemed that we lived there quite well because we made an order there and they let us do that, they were just interested in our work, nothing else.”
Beginning of the Slovak National Uprising and Farewell to Parents
“Doctor Pelach was the chief doctor of that enterprise and I was appointed to work with him, so we took everything from the aid station, the entire material and carried it to Chopok hill. There we were hidden in the ground on the sidehill. And sometimes Germans strafed us. We used to go with our commander, he never went out alone. The doctor had to follow him everywhere; he checked where the various units were. I went down the Chopok hill to the town of Mikuláš and to that wood where my parents hid out and there I said farewell to them. I told them that Germans followed us and had already dispersed us. So, we were about to run away, thus it was the last time I saw my parents.”
Slovak National Uprising as a Challenge
“We perceived it like our chance to do something against those people who killed our parents and friends and so on. You know, I am not able to tell how the commanders took it. But I can tell you that they claimed: "Well the Uprising is here, so we go with you."”
“Training on the Battlefield” of the Slovak National Uprising
“So I took the gun and I knew how to charge it and when we went away from the airfield I had a rifle as well. Once somebody showed me how it worked, and then in Poprad when we were at the railway station, Germans bombed us but, let’s say, we didn't stand face to face with them. It happened just from time to time when we were up in the hills, when Germans noticed that we were there. Once I went to the brook wash myself, because we were buried in the trench on the sidehill, so I really needed a wash. And they had to see something and started to fire. Of course, nobody was hurt because it was a kind of indefinite shooting; they didn’t know where exactly we were.”
The story and videoclips of this witness were put together and published thanks to the financial support of EU within the programme Europe for Citizens – Active European Remembrance.